Broadband News

Fibre first underway in Birmingham with first areas announced

There are two ways of rolling out broadband, you make a grand announcement and then no-one hears much more until you flip a magical switch allowing millions to order, or you announce the smaller areas as you roll-out helping to ensure people do know you are actively doing something. For sometime the promise of three million premises of full fibre from Openreach looked like a magic flip of a switch, but following on from a City of London photo op last week, today we have news on the first 100 hundred premises in the Kings Norton and Great Barr areas of Birmingham.

Birmingham is seeing an incredible transformation and we’re proud to be playing our part in that. Our roll-out of ultrafast broadband has been planned specifically to support important local projects like preparations for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, expansion of the Midland Metro tram network and new housing projects, as well as focussing on areas of the city with the slowest broadband speeds.

Ultrafast fibre broadband will help create wealth, spread opportunity and drive exciting new developments in sectors from health to transport and finance.

Our work in Birmingham is going extremely well. So far, our engineers have installed around 20 kilometres of fibre optic cable and we plan to accelerate the pace of our roll-out during June, increasing the number of premises that we pass from around 800 a week to 1,000.

Clive Selley, Openreach CEO

This first 100 are set to be followed with more in areas such as Sutton Coldfield, Streetly, Acocks Green and Stechford. The Sutton Coldfield and Streetly is also going to be looking to see if different deployment methods can speed up the roll-out (we presume this is more than just the existing connectorised deployment) and in Moseley they will be playing around with changes to how they install in apartment blocks in an attempt to reduce the amount of disruption for residents.

At this time we cannot share exactly which streets are benefiting, Kings Norton is rare in that none of the cabinets have a VDSL2 twin and on the Great Barr exchange the two cabinets without VDSL2 twins are showing no evidence of FTTP work.

The three million premises of full fibre by the end of 2020 based on what others have announced means Openreach still looks like they will be the largest full fibre operator in the UK and with what we know about the roll-out to the eight cities (Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Cardiff, London and Bristol) and some other towns we can make some estimates of what is going to happen. What we know is as follows:

  • 3 million premises in total
  • 1.7 million in the 8 cities and other areas
  • 800,000 from new build developments and rural area contracts
  • 500,000 existing full fibre premises

If the changes around more full fibre work as hoped this means that three years of new build activity at 170,000 premises a year would mean that rural areas can expect an extra 290,000 premises, i.e. almost double the exisitng Openreach full fibre footprint in the BDUK projects. This scale may look large but given the number of extension projects and likelihood of large more full fibre contracts from Wales and Scotland this is to be expected.

The impact in percentage terms is difficult to quantify as we don't know how many VDSL2 cabinets are going to see FTTP introduced, so improving ultrafast coverage but making no different to the superfast figures. The rural/BDUK volume though should be worth around 1% extra in terms of superfast coverage, or if you are looking at just the rural picture an extra 1 in 20 premises in rural areas will have access (5.3%).

The 1.7 million premises spread around the 8 cities works out at over 1 in 4 premises gaining access to full fibre (26.6%) on top of any existing coverage, but what we don't know is if some cities are going to see more than others. The pattern in London and Bristol has been towards the city centre areas where exchange only lines have a tendency to dominate, but there are still phone cabinets without VDSL2 twins and very often those areas have a cable broadband presence so in terms of pushing the UK towards 97% and 98% superfast we think that the big contributor is the deployment in rural areas rather than the urban deployments.

CityFibre and Vodafone with their roll-out is aiming for what seems to be a more blanket approach to covering the areas announced e.g. Milton Keynes, but a massive unknown hangs over the plans TalkTalk have for 3 million premises.


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